CFP Board seeks to increase certificants by 5% in 2013

Jan 20, 2013 @ 12:01 am

By Mark Schoeff Jr.

The Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards Inc. is mounting another big marketing campaign this year — this one aimed at persuading investment advisers to become CFPs.

This follows the CFP Board's decision nearly two years ago to launch a major public-awareness campaign to raise consumer name identification of the credential it grants.

The CFP Board this year wants to increase by about 5% the number of CFP mark holders, which totals about 67,300 in the United States.

“It's a campaign to market the CFP certificate to existing financial advisers who are not certificants and to job changers,” CFP Board chief executive Kevin Keller said in an interview.

The organization has tapped Marketing General Inc., which specializes in working with trade associations.

Other details haven't yet been determined, in part because this is a different approach for the CFP Board, according to Mr. Keller.

Previously, the organization's marketing was done through the more than 200 educational institutions that offer CFP courses.

“We will spend more than $1 million in 2013 to grow the number of CFP professionals,” Mr. Keller said.

OPERATIONS BUDGET

Unlike the four-year, $40 million public-awareness campaign, which is financed by an increase in CFP fees, Mr. Keller doesn't anticipate that mark holders will be charged for this year's adviser marketing campaign.

“This will be budgeted out of our operations,” he said.

The CFP Board will have a budget of about $29 million this year, up from $13 million in 2007, when Mr. Keller was appointed chief executive.

One CFP said that the marketing effort is a good move.

“It means the CFP Board is stepping up to market the certificate the way many other designating organizations already do,” said Michael Kitces, a partner and director of research at Pinnacle Advisory Group Inc. “Obviously, the greater question is why the CFP Board hasn't been marketing its designation all along.”

The CFP Board maintains the educational and ethical standards of the mark, and also has an enforcement arm. During Mr. Keller's tenure, the number of CFPs has grown by 24%.

That increase, which occurred despite a severe economic downturn, is attributable in part to the fact that once financial advisers go through the one- or two-year educational and testing process to get CFP certification, they tend to hang on to the credential. The retention rate is about 97%.

“That helps our growth numbers — that we're not constantly having to replace 10% or 20% who are not renewing each year,” Mr. Keller said.

CFP Board chairwoman Nancy Kistner said the organization's growth goal is tied to an increasing need for competent and professional investment advice.

“We view it as evolving, based on public demand,” said Ms. Kistner, managing director and wealth planning solutions market director at U.S. Trust Bank of America Private Wealth Management.

The growth effort also underscores the “one profession, one designation” initiative promoted by the Financial Planning Association and the National Association of Personal Financial Advisors.

Last month, NAPFA said new members must hold the CFP mark.

The CFA Institute recently launched a designation called the Claritas Investment Certificate, which can be earned by those providing investment advisers support such as marketing, sales, legal, compliance, operations, HR and information technology. About 70 companies and 3,000 candidates are involved in the pilot program.

The International Association of Qualified Financial Planners grants the QFP designation to advisers who possess one of five credentials: the CFP, the chartered financial consultant, the personal financial specialist, a master's degree in financial services or a master's with a concentration in financial planning.

As it seeks to grow this year, the CFP Board also will have to deal with an internal ethics issue. In November, its chairman, Alan Goldfarb, and two members of its disciplinary and ethics commission resigned over alleged violations of CFP ethics standards.

The CFP Board won't provide details about the cases prior to a March hearing.

CLOSED-DOOR PROCESS

The process — which could include summer appeals — will remain behind closed doors as is standard procedure for all CFP cases, according to Mr. Keller.

In the meantime, CFP mark holders will be monitoring the situation.

“A lot of the planning community is still looking for a final resolution,” Mr. Kitces said.

mschoeff@investmentnews.com Twitter: @markschoeff

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